Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What? You don't care if your kids go to college? What kind of parent are you?!

Image credit: Discovery Education. Artist: Mark A. Hicks

I read this great article the other day and it got me thinking. I know it may be shocking, but I really don't care if my kids go to college or not. I mean, I want them to be educated, but college is just one of many possible paths to get there. My goals for them are very simple: to grow up to be happy, to stay curious and love learning, and to be good people. If college fits into that picture for them, great. If not - also great.

I went to college right after high school, but after a semester I realized I really had no idea what I wanted to do, and therefore had no specific goal to work toward. I couldn't decide what classes to take. So I didn't go back... until about half a decade later. I then spent 4 years working full time and going to school part time, and got an Associate Degree in Computer Networking and Maintenance. At that point I was on the fence about continuing to work towards a Bachelor's Degree but finally decided not to, because I was tired of putting aside things I really wanted to read and learn, in order to complete required reading that wasn't interesting and busy work that wasn't useful. I realized I could always keep learning on my own in other ways. Once I made that decision I felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders, and it felt good to have chosen that freedom for myself. I kind of became a twenty-something unschooler.

If my kids do choose college, I strongly feel that they should have to pay for a significant amount of their own educations so they're invested in the results - I know plenty of people who partied their way through college and completely wasted Mom & Dad's money. I had to pay for most of my own education and I was driven to get every dime's worth out of it - nothing less than straight A's was acceptable to me. If my kids know what they want to do and want to go to college, great - and I will gladly support them. But if it's not for them, I'm also fine with that. In the current day & age, I think what is more likely to be useful is a) actual work experience, even if that means starting at the very bottom - something which a lot of people seem to think is beneath them - and being the best darn whatever-it-is that they can be, and b) more specific technical training / work skills / certifications which can be acquired by taking a few classes in specific areas as needed, rather than taking a whole roster of courses where maybe only 30% of the classes are actually relevant to the job desired.

And my Associate Degree? I got it in 2003 and I'm still making payments on my student loans. Even though I finished with a GPA of 3.98, I didn't feel like I could represent myself as a qualified "expert" to get a job in my field. I lacked confidence in that education I had worked so hard for (and paid so much for). So I chose to stay at the company I've been with for the past decade+ because I like the work and the people I work with, and the pay is decent. And once I had kids, they offered me the flexibility to work part time at pretty much whatever hours are convenient to me. For me, it turned out to be a really good choice. The degree though? Well, maybe I'll use it someday...


  1. I should have done as you did and dropped out. I wanted to be a massage therapist, but I thought going to university for Physical Therapy would be the more sound choice--I who had never had Chemistry, Physics, or any math beyond algebra. Nor Anatomy.

    I switched to English after one semester (Yikes!), and looking back, should have dropped out and followed my initial impulse to do Massage Therapy training. It was the biggest financial mistake of my life. Too bad homeschool moms don't get paid. I love this job.

  2. I completely agree. I went and lasted about 1.5 semesters going full speed. I was worn out and dropped out. Same with my husband, he is graduating in December- and this second time actually knew what he wanted and wanted the good grades. Straight from highschool most kids don't have a clue.


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